The 18: DeChambeau triumphs at the JDC
The 18 is a look at eighteen stories from the previous week or so in the world of golf, and they will usually be on stories that I didn’t dedicate a full post towards. Expect a combination of thoughts, GIFs, images and anything else that caught my eye from the past seven days. Some will be longer thoughts, and others will be no more than a line or two.
The 18 will (hopefully) run every Tuesday. You can catch up on previous versions of The 18 right here.
1. On Saturday, I was super interested in watching Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Rodgers go head to head in the final group at the John Deere Classic. It didn’t really live up to my own expectations just because DeChambeau seemed flat, so I ended up watching more of the U.S. Women’s Open instead. Sunday was different though, and DeChambeau ended up coming out on top after a ridiculous back nine 30 that featured some tremendous shot making.
Rodgers wasn’t able to match Bryson’s number, and DeChambeau had his first career PGA Tour win and a place in the Open Championship. After all the hype and promise we saw earlier with DeChambeau, it’s good to see him come through with a win at the fifth major.
2. I have no idea how successful DeChambeau is going to be, and I don’t really think that anyone else has much of a clue, either. Here’s what we do know: DeChambeau is obviously super polarizing based on a variety of factors, but there’s no doubting that he has buckets of talent. You can’t have the amount of success that he has had at the amateur and college levels without that kind of talent. He’s contended in regular PGA Tour events and major championships. Some moron even suggested that he should merit consideration for the Ryder Cup last year. This win was always likely to happen.
But then he struggled, particularly on the greens, and piled up bad finish after bad finish. When you think about it, it really didn’t take DeChambeau long to break through on the PGA Tour, but it felt longer and his struggles seemed more pronounced. Maybe that’s because of his larger than life personality and the way that he talks and thinks about the game, but regardless of the reasons, it feels like this should serve as a reminder that we all need to give young players time to pull it all together. Even if they have a pedigree that is similar to DeChambeau’s.
One thing that was clear was how much of an effect this win had in the immediate aftermath.
3. One last thing on Bryson: as I said earlier, I don’t think anyone has any real idea on how much success he’s going to have in his career, but personally, I like the fact that he’s going about it in his own way. Sure, his single length irons, scientific approach and perceived arrogance is going to rub people the wrong way, but at the very least, he’s doing something legitimately interesting. He’s taking a different approach to the game, and regardless of if he succeeds or fails, he’s going to do it his way and I respect that. It’s also really difficult to fault the guy for answering the questions that are being asked of him.
We talk all the time about how golf needs more characters, and in his own way, Bryson DeChambeau is exactly that.
4. The strokes gained leaderboard from the Deere, where Bryson got it done thanks to just his fourth tournament of the year with a positive strokes gained putting. Also, somehow Kyle Reifers was the best putter during the week, and the single worst player from both tee to green, and on approach shots.
As always, this is with all stats courtesy of Data Golf and only features players who made the cut.
- Off the Tee
- Best: Rick Lamb (+1.486)
- Bryson DeChambeau: (+0.488)
- Worst: Robert Streb (-1.859)
- Best: Kyle Reifers (+2.442)
- Bryson DeChambeau: (+1.873)
- Worst: John Merrick (-1.377)
- Tee to Green:
- Best: Cameron Percy (+1.657)
- Bryson DeChambeau: (+1.148)
- Worst: Kyle Reifers (-2.885)
- Best: Brian Harman (+1.269)
- Bryson DeChambeau: (+0.533)
- Worst: Kyle Reifers (-2.485)
- Around the Green:
- Best: Jamie Lovemark (+1.409)
- Bryson DeChambeau: (+0.127)
- Worst: Derek Fathauer (-1.158)
5. There’s no doubt in my mind that the win is coming soon for Patrick Rodgers. Much like DeChambeau, Rodgers has been super successful at every level to date in his career, and there’s really no reason to believe that he won’t have continued success on the PGA Tour. He was a little loose with some shots down the stretch in Moline, but it’s not like he blew up and shot 77 to lose by a shot. He was 1-under on a day where someone went out and posted a back nine 30 to nip him by one, and there’s really no shame in that kind of defeat. I frequently talk about the amount of volatility in match play, and how because these guys are all so good, that any player is capable of going out and winning a match on any given day. This tournament is the perfect example of this theory in a stroke play event. DeChambeau won this tournament so much more than Rodgers lost it, and sometimes, that’s just what’s going to happen.
6. Shout out to Rafa Cabrera-Bello for finally slaying the dragon and picking up his first win in five and a half years at the Scottish Open. The shot he hit to seal it in the playoff against Callum Shinkwin was tremendous, and will be in consideration for ‘Shot of the Year’ on the European Tour.
When you talk with the most hardcore section of Golf Twitter, the punters, they’ll all likely regale you with a story of how they lost out on a bet when Cabrera-Bello couldn’t close the door, or how they won when he was the first round leader. That’s kinda been the narrative surrounding him for a while, and part of that is because of the sheer amount of talent that he possesses. I know I just mentioned above that all of these guys are super talented, but the talk around Cabrera-Bello has always been that he’s on that elevated level, but for whatever reason, it hasn’t really come together for him.
Maybe it helped that he wasn’t in the final couple of groups, and he knew he had to be a little more aggressive if he wanted to have a chance, but that’s really just speculation on my part. Regardless, it was a special Sunday for him with that 64 and now that the monkey is off of his back, it’s going to be interesting to see how it all plays out for him going forward.
7. Have to feel a little bit for Callum Shinkwin, who for all the world, looked like he had his first professional win wrapped up as he stepped up to the par-5 18th with a one shot lead over Cabrera-Bello. All he needed to do was make par on a hole that had been playing under par all week, but he made a mess of it and ended up with a sloppy bogey. In the playoff, he actually hit his approach to pretty much the exact same spot, long and left of the green, which left a nearly impossible pitch and guaranteed the loss after the approach from Cabrera-Bello.
It shows how difficult it really is to win in this game when you see something like that happen, but ultimately, I think it’ll end up being a positive for Shinkwin. He cashed the biggest cheque of his career last week, got into the Open Championship and gained some valuable experience against one of the best players in the world. It’s understandable if that’s not how it feels right now, but this experience will likely end up working in his favour going forward.
8. Speaking of disappointing finishes, come on down Ian Poulter! On Sunday morning, I strapped myself into the coverage on Golf Channel eager to see how Poulter would handle things, and to be honest, I’m not sure what I was expecting. The 2-over 74 playing in the final group that led to his tie for 9th wasn’t the way I’m sure Poulter saw it playing out, but much like Shinkwin, I actually think this could be a positive.
Sure, Poulter doesn’t need the experience like Shinkwin does, but he has quietly put together a decent season after appearing to lose his PGA Tour card and considering how long it’s been since he’s really been involved in the conversation, it’s finishes like these that still have to be taken in a positive tone. As you would expect with Poulter, the fight is still there and I think we’ve seen enough evidence from him that shows that the game is probably still there as well, even if it isn’t at the level that it was a few years ago. I don’t think we’ve seen the last of him, and I think he’s a sneaky pick for contention this week at Birkdale.
9. Two missed cuts in a row and three of the last four is a suboptimal way for Rory to enter the Open, but I’m maintaining my stance from a few weeks ago: everyone just relax. The putter and the short irons are definitely an issue right now, as is I suspect the constant switching of equipment that he’s done in the last 18 months or so. Assuming that’s behind him now with the TaylorMade deal, my guess is that you’ll see steady improvement and wins over the next little while. That may mean that he goes the rest of the year without a victory, but I honestly don’t think that’s a big deal, either. I know that’s not a popular take right now, but sometimes, you just have to let these things play out.
Having said that, he’s so talented that he could win by seven this week and I don’t think anyone would have much of a reason to be surprised.
10. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to watch as much of the U.S. Women’s Open as I would have liked, but the amount that I did see just reinforced my opinion that Fox has become really, really good at broadcasting golf. They didn’t have the easiest assignment this week for a variety of reasons, and I thought they handled it very well, especially as a network that is still trying to find their footing as a broadcaster in this sport.
For more details on the event, I recommend reading Alan Shipnuck’s dispatch from Bedminster.
11. As much of a shock as the Phil Mickelson/Bones split was, I feel like split of Lee Westwood and agent Chubby Chandler is an even bigger surprise. Neither man is saying much, despite rumours flying around a legal battle and Westwood’s potential move to IMG for his new representation. The two have always seemed inseparable over the years, on and off the golf course, and my guess is that we’re going to be hearing a whole lot more on this in the near future. With how close these two have been, you have to think that something pretty serious is going on here for such an abrupt split.
12. Not sure I get where the LPGA is coming from here with their dress code changes. Seems like a completely needless change considering that it doesn’t feel like anyone on the LPGA Tour dresses so provocatively that it required an action like this.
13. Former Augusta National chairman Hootie Johnson passed away last week at age 86. He has a complicated legacy that I think Michael Bamberger did a good job explaining for Golf.com, but his link to Martha Burk and the way that whole situation was handled is always going to be the first bullet point in his story, at least to me. Since handing things over to Billy Payne, it seems like everything has improved, so that’s good news but Johnson’s reign is always going to be a sore spot for a lot of legitimate reasons.
14. Jim Furyk playing in major championships is something that I think we’ve all taken for granted, which was a point that was driven home last night when I saw this tweet come across my timeline.
It honestly shocked me that he wasn’t qualified, but it makes sense. The combination of injuries and below average play was likely to get him at some point, but that run of consistency is something that should be applauded and even more than that, the fact that Furyk decided to go to Alabama to work on his game is kind of amazing. He clearly doesn’t need the money, and could easily just take the week off, but he wants to grind and get back to where he was. That’s commendable, and pretty cool to see.
15. On a personal note, I finally got a chance to head up to the London, Ontario area last week to play Tarandowah with some family, and I can’t recommend it enough for anyone who is within a few hours. The course was fantastic and the people were as nice as could be, especially to a group of people who hadn’t played the course before. I find it hard to believe that you’ll find a better links style course in Ontario, and the value that you get is phenomenal. If you have a chance to tee it up there, don’t miss it.
16. Your must watch items of the week:
- The European Tour had some of their players step up and hit a shot left handed, and it resulted in a tremendous video.
- The Skratch account did the impossible and turned Matt Kuchar into a violent, cursing machine.
- Finally, this might be the fan of the year:
17. Your must reads of the week:
- Sean Martin talked with Johnny Miller about his last major win at Birkdale in 1976
- Ron Green Jr. on the journey of David Duval
18. In place of the random GIFs this week, treat yourself to the shot that essentially won the Open for Padraig Harrington at Birkdale in 2008.